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Highland Park's Historic Big Pecan Tree To Come Down

The famous Highland Park pecan tree that’s older than the town itself and has played a part in city celebrations for decades, is finally coming down for good.

Highland Park Mayor Margo Goodwin said the Big Pecan Tree is 150 years old and diseased. Despite years of arborist upkeep, it’s grown increasingly fragile. Because of that, and worries it could fall on people or property, the tree’s removal will start Monday.

"The town is only 104 years [old] so there isn’t anybody around who can remember a time when the tree wasn’t in their view," Goodwin said. "So it’s a sad time for all residents and anyone who’s come to the tree lighting."

She said a younger pecan tree, 70 feet away and grafted from the mother tree at least 50 years ago, will now take over the Christmas light tradition.

"In time it’ll take center stage as our new symbol, and we’ll have new traditions with the new tree," Goodwin said. "You know the tree we have now was just a scraggly little thing in the days of the Civil War, and it grew to be quite magnificent. So when we look at what we’re calling the sister tree -- the graft tree -- it’s strong and healthy, and in time it’ll be magnificent too."

The original tree, also known as the Million Dollar Monarch, began life as a hand-watered sapling, the story goes. The Highland Park website says Joseph Cole, son of the first doctor in Dallas County, cared for the tree and when he sold the land it was on in 1888, it was understood that the new owner would protect it.

Years later, according to legend, then-landowner Hugh Prather Sr. was offered $1 million for the land, including the tree, and the Million Dollar Monarch moniker was born.


Armstrong Parkway was built to skirt and protect the tree and provide a dramatic flair to the town entrance.

But the Big Pecan Tree was at its most dramatic at Christmas time. Beginning in 1927, the tree was decorated almost every year with thousands of multicolored Christmas lights.

Town officials say plans exist to preserve wood from the tree to be used in a way to remember the town landmark. 

Credit KERA video
The Big Pecan Tree, seen here in 2007, has been decorated with lights just about every year since 1927.